Brando's Badfinger Newsstand

Airwaves Badfinger's Back On The Airwaves

by Ron Young
It's Only Rock'n'Roll , July 1979, page 8

Back on the bus Badfinger is in high spirits. They have every right to be too because they've just finished a two-encore set at Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters. They'd opened the show with songs from their new Elektra album Airwaves and mixed them with early hits like "Come and Get It", "Rock of Ages" and "Without You" (an Evans / Ham penned tune Harry Nilsson had a worldwide hit with). Badfinger rocked with their trademark enthusiasm as Joey Molland belted out the rockers and wielded a guitar dangerous enough to make Dave Edmunds flinch. Most of the ballads like the new "Lost Inside Your Love" and "Sail Away" were handled by bassist Tom Evans. Their patented high harmonies ebbed and flowed through every number. The new members Tony Kay (formerly of Yes) on keyboards and drummer Pete Clark were manic in their performances. Their addition gives the band a supple and driving rhythm section, and Kay's keyboard work especially fills out Badfinger's sound like never before.

Badfinger was into their third week of a six-week tour that began in Atlanta. They were a much tighter act now and were extremely buoyant about their performance. The chaotically cheerful interview that took place was like a scene from a Marx Brothers movie or A Hard Days Night.

We didn't really decide to set Badfinger back up again, "Joey goes on in his Liverpool accent. "What happened was that I was playing with a couple of guys in Los Angeles, just foolin' around, and we didn't have a bass player and I just thought Tommy would play well with us and that he might like to do it if he wasn't doing anything else. So I called him up, the chips went down, blah-blah-blah, and he came over. And sure enough he played in the band and he liked the tunes and we liked him and we got on well. So we said 'Let's make it a band'. Then we started thinking about it and everybody we went to said, 'Why don't you call it Badfinger, nobody knows what-the-fuck happened to the group anyway. It's got good vibes out there and you broke up when your records were hits not when you were failures.' We broke up at the top. But we umm-awwed about it, (Pete, Tony and Tom begin umm-awwing) because we didn't want everybody saying 'Oh, they're calling themselves Badfinger now and they're gonna cop some bread from singing the songs.' But that's not really where we're at. It's not what we want to be identified with. We do the same kind of music. We're the same people. So why the hell not," Joey emphasizes. "It's a kind of continuation really," Pete adds.

Carry on till tomorrow / There's no reason to look back - (Tom Evans & Pete Ham)

Badfinger's Joey Molland and Tommy Evans, photo by Ken Banning During the early seventies Badfinger, a power pop (if you will) group, filled in some of the gaps left after the Beatles' breakup. They had a string of hit singles that began with "Maybe Tomorrow" (when the group was known as the lveys). It was followed by "Come and Get It," "No Matter What," "Day After Day," and "Baby Blue." Badfinger had that hard-to-find perfect balance of a rockin' band that could also sign, seal and deliver a wistful ballad the way most people thought only McCartney could do. They started out by being signed to the now defunct Apple label and lived in the Beatles' shadow until they eventually found their own characteristic sound and style. The band members were Pete Ham (guitar, piano and vocals). Joey Molland (guitar and vocals), Tom Evans (bass and vocals) and Mike Gibbons (drums).

After four albums for Apple (Magic Christian Music, No Dice, Straight Up and Ass) the group was signed to Warner Brothers Records for which they recorded two albums (Badfinger and Wish You Were Here), During their term with Warners the group was mismanaged, getting very little encouragement or guidance. They also saw little of the money they earned. ("We didn't do the last Warners contract. It was done for us by our management. It was a management contract, with the record company. The group didn't benefit from it at all. Our Elektra contract is a lot better deal and I enjoy being on the label," Joey said.)

Their last album Wish You Were Here got great reviews and was high on the American charts when it was unfortunately recalled due to improper management dealings. On top of all that the group was having internal conflicts over management with Joey and Pete leaving and coming back at various times. During this time they added a keyboard player Bob Jackson and had a tour planned for the fall of '74 when finally Joey quit having had enough of the legal hassles that a Houdini couldn't have gotten out of. Pete became very depressed over Joey's departure, Badfinger's bankruptcy and the contractual bind they were in. In April 1975 he hung himself, only 27 years old. He left a suicide note which pointed an accusing finger at the music business and hoped his death would be a lesson to other musicians.

The rest of the group was shocked by Ham's death and quit music altogether for several months, giving serious thought to pursuing other careers. Eventually though, they did remain in the music business each working in various other groups. Gibbons worked with the British band Flying Aces, Evans and Bob Jackson formed The Dodgers, while Molland formed Natural Gas with ex-Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley. None of the groups worked out for long.

Ticket to Austin's Armidillo Show, June 1979 That was four years ago. Another story and another Badfinger. This is 1979 and this year's model of Badfinger is back on the road to success. The new version of Tom and Joey's band had consisted of Joe Tanzin, a guitarist, and drummer Kenny Harck. Together they made some demo tapes and presented them to Elektra Records who like them and signed the group to a contract. But during the recording of Airwaves Kenny Harck was asked to leave.

"Tom and I were playing with these two guys and the drummer wasn't working out and we had to sack him. Mike (Gibbins) was the first one to come into our heads and we brought him over from Wales, but he hadn't played in a live group situation for four years because he'd been doing sessions ... Bonnie Tyler kind of laid-back music sessions. And when he came to sit in with us and play as a band member again the kind of brashness and energy thing that you need in a band wasn't happening. We played with him for a week and sat down and talked. We all decided that it wasn't gonna come together. So he went back to Wales and he's doing sessions, living the good life and enjoying himself. We're doing this and living our lives and enjoying ourselves." Joey beams.

"The guitar player (Tanzin) stopped coming to the sessions about a month before we finished the record. We wondered what was going on and found out later that he actually went to play another gig with somebody else. He left at a bad moment just as we finished the album. So what can ya' do, ya' know what I mean," Joey sadly states.

Tom, who has been letting Joey do all the talking finally says, "Airwaves could've been a bit bolder... harder, but it was all down to what went down. The sacking of the drummer and the guitarist leaving. And Joey and me were left in the last month with all the overdubs to do."

Tony Kaye offers his opinion. "I think the present band would've done the same songs better judging from what we do now since we've played together. So the next album's gonna reflect our energy level better. It's gonna be a lot more rock'n'roll because that's what we do best. We may put out a live one so we can get that immediate thing. We've opened some shows for Blue Oyster Cult and the fans have loved us."

Joey Molland doing his best Dave Edmunds imitation "The Airwaves album got good reviews at first, I thought, in the trades around the country but I don't know about the papers. People commented that it was at least as good as what we did before. The vocals and playing were still good," Joey adds.

At this point Pete Clark loons his way into the conversation. "You're up against the expectancy syndrome which is a lot of crap." (Then, speaking in a Long John Silverish voice) "You've got a new album out, and well, it better be fuckin' good or I'm gonna jump all over it!" Then he mumbles, "If I ever meet a reviewer who's a musician I'll kiss his . . . foot." I tell him that I'm a musician and he gets down on one knee to kiss my foot. I tell him to let me take off my shoes first which draws laughs from the entire group.

Joey goes on amidst all the hysteria. "The record did what we expected more or less. It came out and sold an initial 50,000 copies to people who had seen us and remembered us, but since then I think the album is selling to new people who are turned on by it. The single we have out ("Lost Inside Your Love") is shifting a few gears because I think they're (Elektra) waiting to see what kind of reaction we get because this is our first time out. Elektra hasn't actually heard this band but they put the record out so I guess they're gonna push it. If they put it out and don't push it they must be crazy."

The new Badfinger is a strong band and maybe even a better one in spite of everything that's gone down over the years including the loss of Pete Ham.

"We have really strong feelings about Pete Ham, Joey and I. He was a talented person. But it (Badfinger) was so confined with the personalities that it got hard to escape the syndrome. Like when Pete wrote a song he'd want it performed just that way. Right now we're very loose about the whole situation," Tom says.

Badfinger has been through the mill and around the block a few times but they've come up smiling and as they say in the song "The Winner" from their new album: "We're gonna be a winner this time."

A special thanks to Dave Amara for contributing this article!
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